BYU Marriott Students Earn Two First-Place Finishes at the Purdue HR Case Competition

PROVO, Utah – Nov 30, 2020 – Students from the BYU Marriott School of Business attend the Purdue Human Resources Case Competition every year, but this year’s competition led to an especially exciting result. BYU Marriott’s undergraduate and MBA teams both took first place in their divisions. Two students, Amelia Phillips and Sam Porter, also won the award for the best question-and-answer responder. As teams adapted to the new virtual format, they worked through problems that will be applicable in their future careers.

The competition was hosted by Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and this year’s competition was held virtually. The undergraduate human resource management (HRM) team included senior Chelsea Allen from Delta, Ohio; senior Rebecca Garrett from Iberia, Missouri; senior Daniel Pehrson from Syracuse, Utah; Phillips, a junior from Lehi, Utah; and junior Carson McCracken from Alpine, Utah.

The HRM students’ prompt dealt with representing diversity in a company’s workforce. “Our team was given a case from Phillips 66 about underrepresented minorities,” says Allen. “The organizers of the competition wanted us to compile data involving the population demographics of four key company locations and figure out the best way to mirror the demographics with the company’s job positions in specific job areas.”

Once students got the prompt for the competition, they immediately set out to work on a winning solution. “The team and I spent forty hours preparing for the presentation. I felt like the competition was my full-time job for a week,” says McCracken. “During one of our late-night meetings, all of us were brainstorming ideas, and eventually we got into a flow where our solution started to come together, which was a highlight of the experience for me.”

In order to go the extra mile and adapt to the virtual format, the undergraduate team decided to build platforms for their laptops so they could stand as they presented to the judges. “Our team chose to stand up to feel more natural as we presented, despite not being in front of the judges’ table physically. We all created our own unique structures for our laptops,” says Allen. “We discussed beforehand when we would unmute and how we would transition between speakers.”

The MBA team included Andy Price from Pocatello, Idaho; Kimberlee Whatcott from Maple Valley, Washington; Easton Johnson from Stafford, Virginia; Porter from Mesa, Arizona; and Mindy Torbit from Sandy, Utah.

“My team and I were tasked with analyzing the unionization risk for a manufacturing workforce and providing recommendations for how to mitigate this risk,” says Whatcott. “The most rewarding aspect of the competition was working with great team members who were all willing to collaborate together and achieve the best presentation possible.”

As the MBA team worked together, they relied on one another’s strengths to create an effective solution. “None of us were experts with unionization, and we competed against schools with labor relations expertise,” says Porter. “Fortunately, we had a few second-year students on our team who knew some basic concepts that helped with our presentation. The success of our work depended on each person contributing significantly to the solution."

To succeed in the competition, both teams had to face the scrutiny of judges as they presented their solutions and participated in a question-and-answer session. “Beyond offering students an opportunity to tackle real-world problems, case competitions like this one allow students to gain experience through presenting their ideas to external experts and practitioners,” says Cody Reeves, BYU Marriott assistant professor of organizational behavior and human resources and a faculty advisor for the competition. “Although our students take their classes seriously, the stakes feel a bit higher when an industry expert peppers them with questions. Gaining this experience while in school will serve students well as they pitch solutions in the workplace.”

After responding to all of the judges’ questions, both teams had plenty to celebrate. “For me, the most rewarding moment was seeing my teammates being so excited about winning,” says Price. “As a second-year MBA student, I had seen that BYU Marriott teams could compete with other schools, but for the first-year students on our team there is always a bit of self-doubt. This was a moment of validation for us to see that we do belong and we can compete.”

When the awards ceremony began, everything happened so fast, McCracken says. “The organizers of the competition announced BYU as the winner of the undergraduate division, and I felt a mix of surprise and excitement. I cheered out loud, even though I was muted on Zoom,” he says.  “Winning as a team was such a wonderful feeling. Each member of the team was instrumental in making this victory happen.”

Carson McCracken prepares for his video call with the judges
Carson McCracken prepares for his video call with the judges. Photo courtesy of Chelsea Allen.
Rebecca Garrett prepares for her team's meeting with the judges
Rebecca Garrett prepares for her team's meeting with the judges. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Garrett.
Zoom screen of the undergraduate team presenting to the judges
The undergraduate team presents to the judges. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Garrett.

Media Contact: Chad Little: (801) 422-1512
Writer: Kenna Pierce